Survey Says It Doesn’t Matter If Refusing Service To Gay Couples Is Religious Based

A study by Indiana University, Bloomington researchers says that anti-gay discrimination might not have to do with “religious freedom.”


The study (which is actually more of a survey) was published in Science Advances recently and written by Brian Powell, Landon Schnabel, and Lauren Apgar.

Due to the ever increasing amount of gay couples being refused service by businesses with the excuse of “religious freedoms” these three researchers wanted to know the public’s true opinions on the matter. As such, they used original data from a US national survey to answer the questions below:

  1. “Does support for service refusal apply only to religious beliefs or extend to other opinions?”
  2. “Does support for service refusal apply only to self-employed individuals or extend to closely held corporations?”
  3. “Does support for service refusal apply only to same-sex couples or extend to interracial couples?”


The 2035 respondents, who filled out the survey between March 11 and March 19 of 2015, were shown examples of a couple being denied a service but with varying scenarios in order to gauge opinions on each different situation.

“[Michael and Jason, a gay couple/Michael and Jennifer, a black man and a white woman] are getting married and want to have photos taken to send out with their wedding invitations. They went to a [self-employed photographer/photography studio in a large chain store] because they heard [he was the best photographer/it was the best place] in the area for engagement portraits. The photographer refused to take their picture. He explained that [(because he is religious/although he is not religious)/(because the corporate chain owner is religious/although the corporate chain owner isn’t religious)] [he/the owner] doesn’t approve of [gay/interracial] marriage.”

Respondents were then asked to give their opinions on whether the service provider should be allowed to refuse services to the couple (in whichever situation they had just read).


The results found that 53% of respondents support the refusal of services to the gay couple and 39% are ok with the refusal of interracial couples.

In addition, the respondents are more in favor of a self-employed photographer rejecting a couple than a big corporation. In fact, the number was twice in favor of a self-employed photographer (61% to 31%).


And then, the researchers say that respondents support the refusal on religious bases just slightly more than nonreligious ones (47% to 45%). As such, they say that the reasons of refusal are basically inconsequential.

"In marked contrast to the couple-type and business-type manipulations, whether the service refusal is for explicitly religious or explicitly nonreligious reasons appears inconsequential."

That said, they also found that while their respondents didn’t care for the reason that gay couples were rejected service, more people cared to distinguish the reasoning for rejecting an interracial couple.

Lastly, each respondent had the choice to elaborate on their opinions. While each response couldn’t be laid out for us, the researchers shared the general consensus of these elaborated thoughts.

"Several people who read the same-sex couple vignettes—and thus were unaware of the parallel interracial couple vignettes—explicitly equated service refusal to gay couples with historical denial of services to African Americans."

"In contrast, the plurality of respondents who supported the businesses’ right to refuse services framed their support in terms of individual rights and libertarianism. Others who endorsed refusal expressly said they supported the businesses’ right to refuse because of their own opposition to same-sex relationships."

"Some people supported the businesses’ right to refuse, although they disapproved of the refusal. This view was common among those who support same-sex marriage, who often assumed that customers would boycott discriminatory businesses. To them, the free market will penalize discriminatory businesses to the extent that they will either eventually provide services or be put out of business."

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